How to Choose and Hire a Painter

Painting is one of the easier home improvement projects if you know what you're doing. You may be able to tackle a small painting job on your own, but you'll avoid expensive mistakes if you choose a professional contractor for larger jobs. Follow these guidelines for how to choose and hire a painter to keep from selecting someone who misrepresents his skills.

Make a list of recommended contractors

It's never a bad idea to ask friends and family for recommendations if they have used a painter in the past and approved of his services. Always get at least three referrals for bid comparisons. Without comparing apples to apples when looking at bids, how can you be sure you're getting a fair price?

Check for licensing, insurance and complaints

Before hiring a painter, always check with the following agencies:

  • your local contractors' board or municipality for proof of licensing and insurance coverage

  • the Better Business Bureau or other consumer protection agency for registered complaints

Keep a contractor's name on your list if the person's license is current and if you've confirmed that all workers who will be doing the job have insurance for personal liability, property damage and worker's compensation. Try to be fair about the number of complaints. It's rare if a painting contractor who has been in business for a long time doesn't have a couple of complaints. If there are any, ask if the issues have been resolved.

Request painting bids

Invite each painter to come to your home to view the scope of work. Take initiative, and check out different types and quality of paint at a store. Ask the store professional what type of paint she would recommend for the job you have in mind.

Present a written list to each contractor with the same information about the scope of work and the type of paint you want the person to use. This way, each bid covers the same work when you begin to compare estimates. It also reduces the chance that you'll pay for a high-quality paint but get stuck with an inferior product.

Expect a written contract

After you accept the painting contractor's bid, the next step is to require a written contract that duplicates the scope of work you outlined. The contract should include all materials to be used (especially the type and quality of paint), an estimate of how long it will take to complete the project, the cost of the project, any product warranties and payment requirements.

Evaluate up-front deposits

Most painters will ask for an up-front deposit of about 20 percent. Small contractors may ask for up to 50 percent. Contractors have to buy all the materials needed and may not have the cash-flow benefits of a larger company. You'll have to decide if getting a lower price by choosing a smaller painting contractor is worth the risk of paying more up front. Until the project is finished to your satisfaction, try to pay out as little as possible in case there is a problem.

Do your research so choosing and hiring a painter won't seem so daunting in the end. When you arm yourself with knowledge, no contractor can take advantage of you.

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